Thursday, March 19, 2015

Wool Applique Chicks - Tips

All 16 chicks are finished now, and I've started quilting the piece!!! I'm quilting by hand, using a single strand of non-mercerized (not shiny) thread (Anchor brand), which is about the same weight as size 12 pearl cotton. This is how it looks so far...

Robin Atkins embroidered, wool applique chicks, in quilting process

While I contemplate how to proceed with the quilting, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the design process with you, especially since a few readers have said they might want to try something like this.

Learning the Stitches - Which Ones to Use and Where to Use Them

Sue Spargo's book, Creative Stitching, was very important in my design process. I didn't know most of the stitches when I started this piece. The instructions in the book are easy to follow, and I was able to learn all that I wanted from the book. More than learning the stitches, the photos in the book allowed me to see how she uses the stitches to embellish her wool applique shapes. Also, she writes about the threads and needles she uses. I followed her suggestions for needles, but did not use many of the threads she mentions.

Robin Atkins embroidered, wool applique chicks

Layout the Shapes

The wool is felted. I bought already felted (correct term is actually "fulled") wool. But you can make your own by washing wool fabric and drying it in the dryer. Here are some useful instructions for fulling wool fabric.

The first step is to cut out the chicks from felted wool fabrics. (Although I made chicks, the shape could be anything... butterflies, flowers, circles, donkeys...) I used 16 different colors, making each chick a different color. I used "chick colors" for some of the wings; others are from a bag of wool scraps I bought at the La Conner Quilt Festival.

I used 60 wt. cotton sewing thread to applique the chicks to the background fabric. Use a thread color that matches the chick color as closely as possible. Although it's a bit shiny, a single strand of embroidery floss would also work for this task.

Starting to Embellish the Chicks

When I finished appliqueing the chicks to the background wool, they just looked like blobs, barely recognizable as chicks. This is not inspirational for starting to embellish! I found that in order to even want to start, I needed to make them more real, more chick-like. So I gave them all eyes, all 16 of them. That helped a lot, but still they didn't feel real. So I gave them all feet, and then beaks. So as not to get bored, I changed thread color for both beaks and feet. Some of the eyes are made with a button; some with a flower-shaped bead; some with a disc-shaped bead. When all of them had eyes, feet, and beaks, finally they began to be chicks, and I was ready to start!!!

Even so... starting is daunting. I used the same method I use (and teach) for bead embroidery... If you've taken a class from me you've heard me say, "Pick up a bead you love, and sew it on somewhere." That's what I did... picked up a thread I loved, picked a stitch that interested me from Sue's book, picked a chick color that appealed to me at that moment, and started practicing the stitch.

When I finished, I just did the same thing again. Sometimes it was the same chick, sometimes I chose a different chick. I kept picking a thread I liked, usually one I hadn't previously used, a stitch I wanted to learn or really liked, and a chick that seemed "to like" the chosen thread color.

After a while, some of the chicks were fully embellished. Once I learned the stitches and had experimented with various threads, I tended to work on one chick until it was finished. But if  when I got stuck, and couldn't think what to do next with a particular chick, I just moved along to some other chick that appealed to me at that moment.

Robin Atkins embroidered, wool applique chicks

Another way to get started

If you feel a bit timid about starting, you could make a pincushion, such as I did, shown below. It doesn't take a lot of time or materials, and can give you both practice (particularly in making beaks and feet) and confidence.

wool felt applique pincushion, Robin Atkins
Personality

I can't help but think of the chicks as youngsters, maybe early teens, with emerging personalities... each, as I work on it, starts to have a story which plays out in my head while I stitch. Once the story begins, it's easier to choose stitches, design motifs, and threads which further develop the story or personality of that chick. Thinking about the chick's personality and background story, keeps me from getting bored, and makes it really fun to work on the piece.

Robin Atkins embroidered, wool applique chicks

Thread Hints

I already wrote about threads, adding it to the bottom the previous post (or, scroll down one more post).

What's Next?

As usual, I don't know. I take it one step at a time, trying not to figure it all out before I start. I do what I know to do. If there isn't anything I know to do, then I wait... wait for an idea, for inspiration, for a solution... wait until I know what to do next, but only the next thing... I try to ignore the question of what comes after the next thing. That's what I'm doing now... waiting to know what the next step in the quilting process will be.

26 comments:

  1. These chicks are all adorable. You are doing a wonderful job.

    Happy Spring ~ FlowerLady

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  2. Just having seen and heard Sue Spargo at our quilt guild this past week, I recognized these little chicks. They are adorable but I do wonder how one hand quilts wool.

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    1. I started by making a running (or quilting) stitch about 1/8" out from each chick using a thread about the same weight at #12 pearl cotton. The stitches aren't very even or elegant, but I think they look OK with the folksy look of the chicks. The pictures of individual chicks on this post show the quilting stitches. I used a piece of a re-purposed flannel nightgown for the "batting" and cotton quilting-weight fabric for the back. I wasn't so fond of the machine quilting on Sue's work... It seemed to be a chapter in some other book, if you know what I mean. I'm trying to make the quilting fit into the same picture as the embellished chicks. I'll post more about it when I've made more progress. Thanks for commenting.

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  3. Don't you mean "fulled" wool? That is the word we hand weavers use in the US for woven fabric that has been washed and massaged to fluff up and fatten the cloth. Knitters also full their finished pieces to shrink and thicken the fabric. Typically the wool cloth straight off the loom looks something like a coarse slightly open weave. Fulling it causing the fibers to mingle and close up the spaces between the yarns. The bigger the spaces between yarns, the more the fabric shrinks. Melton is an example of commercially available woven fabric that has been fulled. The surface looks smooth and hairy like felt but if you cut it you can see the ends of the yarns buried in all that fuzziness.
    Where did you see the term "felled"? Was that a typo?

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    1. Oooh, thanks for catching my typo. I'll fix it immediately! :) Haha... felled is what is done to trees. Also, thanks for explaining the process of fulling!

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  4. I love each and every personality of "Robin's Chicks"!! Thanks for the additional comments.
    I think felled and felted are used synonymously in the quilting world for the process of washing wool fabric in hot water in the washing machine and drying in dryer. As a quilter, I buy felted, overdyed bits of wool for appliqué. No raveling! A friend once knit wool purses on large needles then washed and they would shrink and look great--is that pulled? I think each craft has it's own language!

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    1. Yes, knitted goods when washed and shrunk are said to be fulled. (darn those typos!)
      Felting is the name of the process when fibers (not yarn) are placed perpendicularly and massaged and shrunk or needled together as in the case of mass production.
      Yes, words and definitions are always a problem and change around the world and as the words are used. It's possible that someday in a hundred years no one will care about the difference. But when you write the rules for a juried show, you have to know the definitions of the terms or you will have endless confusion and conversation over whether a piece goes in this category or that one or possibly if it is even allowed in the competition.

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    2. Thanks, Phyllis! It makes me happy that you like my chicks! Can't wait to see YOURS!

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    3. Thanks, Yarngoddess, for your helpful explanation! I found a good internet explanation, and will add the link to the post.

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  5. I love all of the 16 chickens !!
    You did a great work !!
    Greetings Marion

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    1. Hi Marion... and thanks for the compliment... I love them too (like I am the mother of this brood!)

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  6. Oh my gosh, your chicks are so cute! I can tell that it was a fun project to work on.

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    1. Totally fun, Vicki, in so many ways!!! Thanks for looking at them!

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  7. Me, again...
    http://www.maddycraft.com/MC108.pdf
    This is a wonderful article on fulling and felting. At least it agrees with the way I learned to define the two words...:)
    I'm on a mission as you can see. But tell me, why did your chickens cross the quilt?
    Diane

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    1. Oh, you gave me a good LOL today, Diane. Thanks! I think the answer is, "Because they can." I'm going right now to see your linked article. Glad you added it here. Welcome back... any time!

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  8. They're so sweet, Robin! I love the variety of stitches and colors, so lively.

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  9. Cutest chicks in the land! Fun to know they take on individual personalities that you play with as you go.I like that sort of process a lot!

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    1. Me too, Pierr... some sassy, some shy, some rich, some poor... my little brood... they're all special!

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  10. What a fun and colorful project. Beautiful work as always.

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    1. Thanks, Char! I love the color too!

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  11. Dear Robin,

    Your fulled-wool piece
    simply felled me -
    not being fooled,
    I completely falled in love with it,
    and it filled me with joy.
    Feeled I had to tell you.

    Love,
    Sabine

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  12. Your little chicks are such fun! They make me want to rush off and make some :-) I've shared them with my friends on Pinterest, I hope that's all right with you?

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  13. Definitely adding this to a list of things to do.

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  14. Gorgeous chicks. Going to have to try this. On my ' to do' list

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Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!